The Brick Store is a landmark building in tiny Bath, New Hampshire that draws crowds from near and far. It is considered to be the oldest continuously operated general store in the United States. We have visited it on a number of occasions and have loved it everytime–the kids especially like the fudge 🙂
Here is the history of this fine building:
The Brick Store built in the early 1800s is significant because of its architecture and commercial relationship with the town of Bath, New Hampshire. The building is the only example of Federal Style commercial architecture in Bath and may well be the oldest continuously run general story in America.
The precise date of the Brick Store’s construction has not been fully documented, however a reference book written in 1939 states that the structure was built in 1804. The overall Federal style architecture substantiates this date. In any event, deed progression indicates a store on the site prior to 1914. There is reference made to a fire on February 11, 1824 and a subsequent six month repair process. This offers the most likely explanation for the Greek Revival detailings, e.g., the front portico.
Since its construction, the Brick Store has been a general merchandise store, “but . . . [it] has [also] been much more than a mere mart fort he sale of goods. It has been, in an informal way, to Bath, what the Union League Club has been to New York City, except that it has been strictly non-partisan (without prejudice in either politics or religion), without “dues”, a place for social exchange, passing of amenities and sometimes not.” It was “also the post office, bringing daily a gathering of citizens at mail time to indulge in social exchange while the mail [was] being distributed.”
The second recorded owners of the store were Jame and Samual Hutchins, soms of Jeremial Hutchins, one of the first settlers of the town of Bath. They also operated a store and the Jeremiah Hutchins’ Tavern (entered in the National Register for Historic Places, September 7, 1984) in the upper village. In 1829 James’s son, William acquired the Brick Store and ran it until 1848. Throughout the 1800s and to the present the Brick Store has continuously been operated as a general merchandise store. From the mid 1800s until 1943 it also housed the Post Office. The two large rooms (offices) upstairs “have housed lawyers’ rooms, a millinery shop [and] a press.” Today, with the exception of a small convenience store, built in the 1950s, the Brick Store is the only retail establishment in Bath village.
Architecturally the Brick Store is “one of the finest early commercial buildings in New Hampshire”. The imposing structure with its Greek Revival portico is the only Federal Style commercial building in Bath. Numerous brick buildings were built in Bath during the early ninteenth century–almost exclusively Federal in style. Only residentials remain. One, built in the Upper Village by the Hutchins family in 1816, has a similar extended parapet gables to the store. Although not brick, another building in Bath Village, built in 1804, has an almost identical Greek Revival portico and upstairs porch.
The Brick Store is in excellent condition and contains many of the features of earlier times. Of specific note is the “hoop” variety counter, “so called because the angled upright sides enabled the hoop-skirted ladies to get nearer to the displays of merchandise.” The old post office boxes and the delivery window remain intact. A eleven foot bullwheel (still functional) dominates a second floor room. Still viable on the back outside walls (facing the covered bridge) are “painted advertisements for Lady Poor’s Ointment and . . . Morrison’s Old English Liniment.”
Today, although necessary modernization has occurred, the Brick Store maintains its early charm and architectural integrity. It serves the same function as it did in days past–a gather place for residents and visitors to buy goods and for social exchange.
Source: National Register of Historic Places (pdf).
Be sure to visit our complete Town Picture Gallery for Bath, New Hampshire and for 46 other towns . . . more coming soon.
You can also see all of our Building History posts here.